The book presents a dramatically different modern interpretation of the character. Far from being jolly, this Father Christmas is an ill tempered man who works from a normal house with the usual tasks involved with his delivery on Christmas Eve. There is no sign of either Mrs. Claus or the elves in this apparently solo operation. Living with him are his Cat and Dog and two reindeer. While he bumbles and mumbles about his work and life, its clear he has a deep affection for his animals (he gives his cat and dog presents and refers to his reindeer as "m'deers") and enjoys his work. He comes across more in the book as a stereotypical old man who complains about everything but ultimately loves what he does.
The book depicts Father Christmas' deliveries as he deals with complications such as unusual residences and ill-health while taking welcome breaks with liquor put out for him. Along the way, Father Christmas talks to only one person, a milkman intended to represent the author's father, Ernest Briggs. Despite his difficulties, Father Christmas completes his itinerary with his last stop being apparently Buckingham Palace.
Upon returning home, Father Christmas opens his own presents, grumpily disapproving of all his presents apart from a bottle of liquor from Fred.
The book won the Library Association Kate Greenaway Medal for 1973.
The book is followed by a sequel, Father Christmas Goes on Holiday known as Father Christmas Goes on Vacation in the US. The two books were also adapted into an animated short entitled Father Christmas.